Deputy Secretary-General, in World Water Day Message, Says Water Vital for Sustainable Development, Central to Creating ‘Future We Want’

22 March 2012

Deputy Secretary-General, in World Water Day Message, Says Water Vital for Sustainable Development, Central to Creating ‘Future We Want’

22 March 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, in World Water Day Message, Says Water Vital

For Sustainable Development, Central to Creating ‘Future We Want’


It is a pleasure to join you today and I thank the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan for organizing this event.  I also commend Tajikistan for sponsoring the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation in the General Assembly, and for its longstanding leadership on water issues.

The theme of World Water Day this year is water and food security.  Over the coming decades, we will need to significantly increase food production to feed a growing global population and to ensure food and nutrition security for all.  This, in turn, will mean ensuring the sustainable use of our most critical finite resource — water.

Agriculture is by far the main user of freshwater.  Unless we increase our capacity to use water wisely in agriculture, we will fail to end hunger.  We will also open the door to a range of other ills, including drought, famine and political instability.

In many parts of the world, sadly, we see this already.  Water scarcity is increasing, and rates of growth in agricultural production have been slowing.  At the same time, climate change is exacerbating risk and unpredictability for farmers.  This is especially true for poor farmers in low-income countries, who are the most vulnerable and the least able to adapt.

These interlinked challenges are increasing competition between communities and countries for scarce water resources, and hampering the achievement of the fundamental human rights to food, water and sanitation.

Earlier this month, the United Nations announced that the world has met the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.  Yet, with nearly 1 billion people hungry and some 800 million still lacking a safe supply of freshwater, there is much we must do to strengthen the foundation for local, national, and global stability that water provides.

Guaranteeing sustainable food and water security for all will require the full engagement of all sectors and actors. It will entail transferring appropriate water technologies, empowering small food producers and conserving essential ecosystem services.  It will require policies that promote water rights for all, stronger regulatory capacity and gender equality.  Investments in water infrastructure, rural development and water resource management will be essential.

We should all be encouraged by the renewed political interest in food security.  We see it in the high priority given to this issue by the agendas of the G-8 and the G-20, the emphasis on the nexus of food, water and energy in the report of the Secretary-General’s Global Sustainability Panel, and the growing number of countries pledging to “Scale Up Nutrition”.

On this World Water Day, I urge all partners to fully use the opportunity provided by the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  In Rio, we need to connect the dots between water security and food and nutrition security in the context of a green economy.

We need to take a holistic view of development in which the economic, social and environmental carry equal weight.  They are not competing goals that must be traded off against each other, but are interconnected objectives that are most effectively pursued together in a holistic manner.

Directly after Rio, the Secretary-General intends to hold an event on Water and Disaster, to be organized in collaboration with the President of the General Assembly.  This event is in support of the development and implementation of disaster reduction plans, which is a key item in the Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda.

Mega water disasters, such as tsunamis, floods and severe drought, can set back years of development.  It is, therefore, important for the international community to share experiences and lessons and to raise awareness at all levels about the centrality of water to sustainable development.

Water will play a central role in creating the future we want.  Let us engage our partners at all levels of society to ensure that we keep making progress towards that goal.

I wish you fruitful deliberations and thank you for your kind attention.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.